Hollywood’s in the midst of a love affair with 3-D movies, from Pixar flicks to Academy Award-nominated blockbusters. But there once was a time when the technology to see a movie “In 3 Dimensions!” (as 1950s movie posters eerily proclaimed) seemed the stuff of science fiction-along with flying saucers and intergalactic wars with little green men. And the two-dimensional art for these films is now worth, in some cases, thousands of dollars.
The poster for the first movie Universal Studios released in 3-D, It Came From Outer Space, a campy sci-fi film based on a spooky Ray Bradbury story, goes on the block at Heritage Galleries July 16. Cyberspace bidding is already under way at Heritage’s Web site, www.live.ha.com. (The company is Dallas-based but opening a New York showroom this fall.)
One of the first Hollywood films to depict aliens in anything near a sympathetic light, it went so far as to shoot scenes from the perspective of the one-eyed monster from another planet. The heroine (schoolteacher), hero (amateur astrologer) and townspeople (possessed, one by one) do battle with the otherworldly creature in the isolated Arizona desert, after a meteor falls to earth. The poster, for sale along with 63 others, is estimated at $3,000. It’s gaudy, smattered with stars and all but glows in the dark.
Much rarer posters, in near-perfect condition, have sold for multiples of that price: a “one-sheet” poster for the 1932 movie The Mummy fetched $453,500 at Sotheby’s in 1997, the highest price for a vintage poster ever sold at auction. (One-sheets are 27 inches by 41 inches, the size generally most sought by collectors.) Other cult classics, such as Frankenstein and King Kong, have also sold for about $200,000.
Collectors be wary: “re-strikes,” or reissues, of popular movie posters like Pulp Fiction, Jaws and Star Wars are common. Telltale mark of a reissue is a tiny “R” in front of the year, or an irregular size.
Other highlights of the upcoming Heritage auction include more modern posters for Stanley Kubrick films, A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not so rare, these will likely sell for a few hundred dollars.
The hottest-selling vintage posters tend to be from horror and science fiction films, according to Heritage vintage movie poster specialist Grey Smith. Despite unknown casts and pulpy plot lines, these posters often command high prices for their high-quality, striking artwork. The poster for the 1958 film Attack of the 50-foot Woman features a buxom redhead stopping traffic-literally, by picking up cars off the freeway. She’s estimated at $8,000.
“A lot of the time the posters are for films that really aren’t very good films; it’s just that the artwork is so kitschy and fun,” said Mr. Smith. “If you were to put a ’50-foot Woman’ on your wall, who wouldn’t comment on it when they walked into your house?”